Residents of Clinton at a community meeting during this summer’s fires. The BC Nurses’ Union is urging those experiencing stress because of the the wildfires to get assistance. Photo: Susan Swan.

BC Nurses’ Union acknowledges stress caused by wildfires

Those affected are urged to seek assistance if they feel they need it, in order to recover.

As tens of thousands of people begin the slow process of rebuilding their lives after this summer’s wildfire crisis, the BC Nurses’ Union (BCNU), along with the United Way, is warning of the psychological impact the experience is likely to have had on those who lived through it.

The BCNU recently donated $10,000 to the United Way’s BC Wildfire Recovery Fund, aimed at addressing important social needs like housing, and access to food and mental health care, by rebuilding social service agencies. As was learned from the wildfire disaster in Fort McMurray, the recovery phase can often be just as sensitive to handle as the disaster itself.

“After traumatic experiences like we saw this summer, it’s common to see more cases of domestic abuse, alcohol and drug use, and a variety of public health issues,” says BCNU acting president Christine Sorensen. “We have to also consider the health care professionals who worked under extremely stressful circumstances and are feeling the lasting impacts of the crisis firsthand.”

Danalee Baker, executive director of United Way Thompson Nicola Cariboo, says the donation will greatly assist those who are in the process of rebuilding their lives.

“We are overwhelmed at the generosity of the BC Nurses’ Union and their ongoing support of the people of B.C. Their gift will go towards BC Wildfire Recovery in the coming months, specifically to target a common goal: mental wellness and resilience for citizens and communities,” she says. “Returning to some semblance of normal life and restoring hope for those affected by the wildfires is key to moving on from the trauma, anxiety, and fear that accompany disaster.”

Both the BCNU and the United Way are encouraging people who were impacted this summer to access mental health services and resources if they feel they need assistance.

“We know mental health is essential to physical health, personal well-being, and positive family and interpersonal relationships, all of which has been disrupted this summer,” Sorensen says.

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